Episode Spotlight: Guerilla My Dreams

Every Monday, I spotlight a random episode of M*A*S*H, providing a brief review and asking readers to offer their thoughts.

“Guerilla My Dreams” (#172, 8×03)
Originally Broadcast: Monday, October 1st, 1979
Written by Bob Colleary
Directed by Alan Alda

Capsule Summary: Hawkeye and B.J. face off against an ROK officer eager to interrogate his wounded prisoner, a woman accused of being an enemy guerilla. Meanwhile, Margaret worries when a wounded Scully shows up at the 4077th.

I can’t decide how I feel about this episode. Specifically, the A story involving Hawkeye, B.J., and Lt. Park. This is a rare episode in which the good guys at the 4077th don’t win in the end. Hawkeye and B.J. rant and rave and try their best to outmaneuver or trick Lt. Park but utterly and completely fail.

Mako, in his third of four guest appearances on M*A*S*H, does a wonderful job playing Lt. Park. Personally, as a viewer, I’m left asking myself whether he’s as cold and calculating as Hawkeye and B.J. think or if he’s simply a soldier doing his duty for his country. Is he salivating at the thought of brutally torturing and killing his prisoner? Or does he truly think she has information that will save lives?

Clearly, Lt. Park has a very different understanding of war than Hawkeye, B.J. and the others. Consider his chess analogy:

Lt. Park: “You’re a doctor. Your concern for an individual life is admirable but impractical. War, gentlemen, is like chess. Loss of a single pawn is insignificant. All that matters is winning the game.”

How is his attitude any different than those expressed by Colonel Buzz Brighton in “The Ringbanger” (Season 1) or General Collins in “Say No More” (Season 11)? War is hell. People die. If Lt. Park can get information from his prisoner, perhaps he can keep some people from dying. If that means torturing and killing her, apparently he can live with that.

Colonel Potter may understand this but not like it. Certainty, he realizes his hands are tied and there’s nothing he can do. Lt. Park is going to get his prisoner eventually. How Charles truly feels isn’t addressed. He refers to Lt. park as a “professional soldier” just “doing his job” but seems too busy devising chess moves to care about what’s going on.

Hawkeye and B.J. are blinded by their commitment to saving lives, regardless of which side of the war those lives are on. They don’t see the woman as a prisoner or a possible guerilla or an innocent–they see her as someone who needs healing. They heal. That’s what they do. Full stop.

What makes this episode interesting is that we, the viewers, know that the woman is a guerilla because we see her pulling an IV out of a wounded soldier in Post Op. She’s trying to kill him. Hawkeye and B.J. don’t know that. Margaret didn’t see it happen and assumes the woman was looking for help. B.J. thinks she was trying to escape Lt. Park. They don’t consider the possibility she was trying to kill someone.

The final showdown between Hawkeye and Lt. Park is dramatic. I think it suffers because it takes place in the studio rather than outside, and thus feels cramped. As the woman yells in Korean, and Lt. Park translates, Hawkeye and B.J. look stunned. Do they finally believe the woman is a guerilla, a killer? If so, it doesn’t change how they feel. They still hate letting Lt. Park drive away with the woman, knowing she’ll likely be tortured and perhaps killed.

Ultimately, I don’t feel this is a perfect storyline but it raises questions and makes me think, and that’s always a good thing.

I definitely don’t like the B story in which Charles acts so childish while playing chess with Lt. Park. As my appreciation has grown over the years for the character of Charles and the fine work of David Ogden Stiers, scenes like this one bug me more and more. It’s not that I have a problem seeing Charles taken down a peg or two. It just somehow feels out of character to see him behave like a sore loser. I’d much prefer to see him shocked and appalled at being outplayed by Lt. Park.

The Margaret-Scully C story is filler and goes nowhere. Scully is wounded, arrives at the 4077th, Margaret worries about him, Scully tries to get something going in Post Op, and then Scully leaves. It’s too bad there wasn’t time to develop more of a true storyline here.

Likewise, Radar’s minor role adds nothing to the episode. In fact, without it, there may have been time to devote to Margaret and Scully.

Still from the M*A*S*H episode Guerilla My Dreams showing Lt. Park and his prisoner

Lt. Park and his prisoner.

Any ideas why this episode is called “Guerilla My Dreams”? Am I missing something obvious? There are no dreams involved. Is it supposed to be a play on the phrase “girl of my dreams”? If so, why?

Some of the camera work in this episode is unusual. Particularly the shot of Hawkeye, B.J., Colonel Potter, and Charles talking to Lt. Park while walking from Potter’s tent to the Mess Tent. The group walks toward the camera, which is located inside the Mess Tent. You can see the mesh netting when the camera pulls back as they walk inside. Earlier in the episode, during triage when Margaret talks to Scully, the same mesh netting is noticeable.

According to several websites, including the Internet Movie Database, this episode marked either the first time or one of the first times someone said “son of a bitch” on network television in the United States. This is one of those claims that’s difficult, if not impossible, to confirm.

I’ve never noticed this before, which may be because it’s unique to this episode, but the sleeves of B.J.’s jacket are too long for him.

17 Replies to “Episode Spotlight: Guerilla My Dreams”

  1. I only recall seeing this episode once or maybe twice, and it’s by far my least-favorite episode of Season 8, and it has some competition in that area. I dislike the N Korean woman spy, and I hate that she’s trying to murder a US soldier. I end up not caring what the ROK officer will do to her as a result. For people who think that the US did a bad thing in supporting the Korean War, they should at least be grateful that the Kim family doesn’t have control over the whole Korean peninsula. Also I hated hearing Hawkeye’s SOB exclamation on television. Of course much worse things have been said on tv since then.

  2. It’s a play on “Girl of My Dreams,” which works on two levels – the guerilla is female… and the girl of Scully’s dreams is Margaret. It was also a song written around 1955 and made famous by Perry Como in the early 1960s… not quite Korean War vintage, but close.

  3. Great performance by Haunani Minn as the guerilla woman. She also appeared in Season 5’s “The Kids” as the pregnant mother who was shot. BJ saved her and the baby and Hawkeye gave the baby Frank’s Purple Heart. Great acting range.

    Mako was great as well. Also liked him as a doctor at a Korean hospital who knew “Ferret Face’s” work all too well in an earlier episode.

  4. Actually, “The Kids” aired in Season 4. I thought Lt. Park’s chess analogy was really on the mark. Haven’t seen this episode in a long time and am looking forward to seeing it.

  5. This was one of the rare episodes I was in complete opposition to Hawk and Beej. It wouldn’t have felt right if they had succeeded, like crossing over from healing to truely “aiding and abetting” the enemy. Someone who would have happly sent dozens of casualties through the 4077 O.R.
    Decent episode overall.

  6. Hawkeye has always cared about all of his patients no matter who they were; he even once tried to help out a wounded doctor who happened to be from the other side, but in this case he was clearly either naive or in denial, although Park’s actions might have seemed harsh since he was supposed to be an ally.

  7. I hate this episode! It is, without a doubt my least favorite. This was the ultimate example of Alda’s politics getting in the way of a good story, and (having forced myself to watch it again) I was surprised to see he DIDN’T write it! The woman is an active enemy agent, and it is such a dramatic cheat that we, the audience, see her try to kill the solider, while Margaret is flirting with Scully! She even admits it at the end! Tells her would-be rescuers that she would like to murder them! Potter and Klinger mostly stand around and let Pierce and Hunnicut pontificate. Morgan actually looks uncomfortable in the final scene, like he had no idea how he was supposed to play it as an actor! Also the fact that a pretty by the book officer like Potter would have even put up with the plot to sneak her out of camp!

    BTW, I was fourteen years old and this was the first time I ever heard “son of a bitch” uncensored on network television.

    I hate this episode!

  8. This my favorite episode, because it shows the reality of war. Even though MASH is in a hospital setting, a lot of viewers tend to forget that famous line always used, “HEY, THERE’S A WAR ON!” The female guerilla was the flip side of humble, grateful peasants that the doctors encountered. The SOB comment used by Alan Alda, (because he was the only cast member, the censors would allow to get away with it *) was bought to you, first by the same network, CBS. An episode of “Maude”, where after Walter Findley, finally recovers from a heart attack, Maude lovingly says , “Oh Walter , , , YOU SONUVABITCH!! The audience applauded as the credits popped on the screen.
    *my opinion

  9. As TVTropes puts it — bad communication kills– too bad they didn’t have a local available to translate, they still wouldn’t know if she were lying but at least they wouldn’t have to depend on Pak’s translation.

  10. I enjoyed the episode but couldn’t help hating Hawkeye and BJ’s politics. Make no mistake. This had everything to do with politics AND medicine. Couple things though. If Pak wanted to question and possibly kill her, wouldn’t it make more sense to leave her wounded for more leverage? Seems like she never should have been brought there at all. Particularly if she’s a guerilla and could possibly hurt other patients (which she tried to do). Also, I’m not sure if Alda had anything to do with this episode beyond directing. He’s said publicly many times that he gets a lot of the blame for the anti-war liberal slant of later seasons but that this wasn’t really the case. I don’t know what’s true but considering he didn’t write every episode, there have to be other forces at work. On the other hand, it was Alda who made a big deal about not wanting to kill the sniper early in the series. That’s why they only wounded him and Hawkeye went to treat him. All Alan’s doing from what Gelbart said. As the real Hawkeye was very upset at the self-righteous Hawkeye in the show, my guess is his attitude wasn’t as commonplace as they make it out to be.

    Either way, if they had helped an enemy guerilla then they certainly would have been aiding the enemy. The Hippocratic Oath does not supercede treason and both BJ and Hawkeye have broken it when it suits them by poisoning people they were trying to stop and by unnecessary surgery. The reality is that they are there as Americans first and then doctors. That doesn’t mean they have to hurt or kill people but it does mean that if given a choice between one of theirs and one of ours, the choice should be simple. If Hawkeye cannot see anything wrong with aiding the enemy, then he should be discharged and sent home immediately. I guess maybe that’s why the real MASH doctors were rotated out after 18 months or so.

    Also, BJ and Hawkeye don’t seem to care how her being there with soldiers she probably helped put there would have affected some of the wounded men in post op. Again again again, I don’t know why they even bring any North Koreans to an American hospital. They have their own doctors. The guy who played Pak was one of them in a previous episode. I couldn’t help but laugh when he called HER a Communist infiltrator when he was the one we saw in a North Korean uniform. It didn’t make much sense that nobody bothered to find out what she was saying when she was speaking to them and glaring. Usually when a person is trying to communicate, they will make an effort to find out what they’re saying so they can help them. Of course that would have killed the plot.

    1. Also, apparently there were several uncredited writers who contributed to this episode including Richard Hooker (author of the original MASH book) and Ring Lardner, Jr, one of the Hollywood Ten who were blacklisted in the 50s for being Communist sympathizers who refused to testify. Interesting connection.

      1. Interesting points…and accurate too. We watch the entire series on DVD over the year, usually run through it a couple times a year. My biggest complaint is always the obvious communist undertones from Hawkeye and B.J. Also, too often the parallels to Vietnam protests is more than evident…and sickening. Was a very common thing to push communism thinking through TV during the early 70’s. It even infiltrated the innocuous comfort of the Waltons through John Boy’s education. Is it any wonder we’re now teetering on the brink of communism taking over our nation? Our grandparents are whirling in their graves, rest their true American souls. Lord help us al.

  11. Great episode – no easy outs or resolutions. Pacifist, nationalist, fascist – all have their say. The ending with Hawkeye cursing and Pak looking at Potter before hoisting a rifle into his lap and driving off is chilling.

    It has taken a few decades but American culture has now made amends for ever having broadcast this much nuance and humanism over its’ major airways. Now Pak and the national security state run the whole show….

  12. Don’t like this episode. Alan Alda humanizes the enemy, always shows sympathy for the North Koreans. Treats Americans troops with disdain, South Korean civilians are noble, SK Military are mocked. Alda served in the US Army in Korea after the war. Obviously hates the military. Yet he’s entitled to a US flag on his coffin. His family should decline because Alda is a hypocrite.

    1. The only ones he treated with disdain were higher brass who had a callous and indifferent mentality towards the war, and saw the loss of lives (including their own men) as nothing more than an insignificant part of the game.

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